Ahhh, London. Your lively jibe, your gritty edge, your sophisticated style. There are so many complementing contradictions to the city that attracts around 15 million tourists every year that it has something for everyone.
Heading over for a two week business sojourn, I was finding it particularly difficult to know and decide where to stay – particularly as it had been a good while (13 years) between stays. So, I decided to stay all over the place, with the help of Accor Hotels and my first AirBNB experience.
If you’re heading to London, here’s a list of places across the city to accommodate a range of different budgets and preferences. Because there were simply too many beautiful shots for one post, click on the links throughout for a visual peek.
The Pullman St Pancras
4 star deluxe - from £168/night (~$336)
Let it be said, The Pullman St Pancras is not a hotel; it’s an experience. On arrival, a doorman, welcoming staff member and professional reception team are eager to make your stay as enjoyable as possible, relieving you of your luggage and letting you relax. An opulent, expansive and beautifully fragrant lobby offers high ceilings, soft lighting and chic interiors with numerous comfortable areas perfect for catch ups or meetings (or just some quiet time with a glass of champagne and a side of fries). The lobby stretches down towards the very smart Golden Arrow Bar and Restaurant where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner for deluxe hotel prices but the quality to match. I highly recommend the Detox Sunday Brunch on a Sunday! Just downstairs from here you’ll find yet another comfortable and contemporary lounge area matched with sublime tunes.
My room was spacious, bright, modern and fresh with a good mini bar, complimentary bottled water, free wifi, robe and slippers, large TV, chaise lounge, rain shower, an excellent hairdryer and luxury toiletries. The view is stunning. The king sized bed is sheer heaven. It was highly fortunate timing for me to snap up my room at a special price of just £90 a night, with Accor Hotel’s Happy Mondays (occasional discounts at participating hotels for the weekend following - definitely keep your eye on this).
A state of the art gym overlooks London with a gorgeous view that distracts you from the treadmill, and there’s a lovely sauna for you to truly unwind in. The staff at The Pullman are so incredibly lovely and happy to help that it truly enhances the already beautiful stay at this upscale hotel. If there was any way I could live here, I would.
Verdict: I didn’t want to leave.
4 star - from £150/night (~$300)
Entering Novotel Blackfriars from the bustling Blackfriars Road, you’re greeted with a busy reception desk and friendly staff to the left, and the lobby bar and restaurant across to your right. It’s clearly a popular hotel full of activity with multiple guests waiting for others in arm chairs or at the large communal table in the front café area. The perspective from my brightly lit room is back towards the city and over the Shard, making it easy for some afternoon writing with a view. A stylish bathroom is partitioned with a glass wall that transforms from a clear to opaque finish - very cool. It also has a rain shower plus great lighting (good for doing make up!) and regular Novotel toiletries. The remainder of the medium sized room is made up of a large, comfy bed, 32” TV, mini bar and a desk panel that leads to the look out over London and a chaise lounge. With an executive upgrade, I’m provided with faster wifi, a robe, slippers and complimentary bottled water. I didn’t try the onsite restaurant although the room service snack (pate and terrines) I ordered after a long day wasn't quite as satisfying as I'd anticipated and I held back on ordering something else. Downstairs in the basement you’ll find an awesome, well-equipped gym, stunning indoor swimming pool with digital art and sauna. There are also meeting rooms just upstairs from reception to accommodate business events and guests. The good thing about Novotel Blackfriars is its location given the price. You’re just a couple of minutes from the tube (Southwark station) and walking distance to all the popular tourist attractions including the Tate Modern, London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral. Being so close to the Thames, it’s perfect for a lap around the bridges for a morning run with some superb on-the-ground views of London. The nearby Blackfriars Wine Bar is good for an afterwork vino.
Verdict: An excellent location with reliable and comfy accommodation.
EASTERN CENTRAL (THE CITY)
Ibis London City
3 star economy - from £82/night (~$160)
This hotel is funky, fresh and FUN. With an economy grade price tag, you’d expect something a little more rough around the edges but the lobby experience and Foggs Bar and Restaurant puts you at ease as soon as you arrive. The rooms are of economy Ibis standard being a little on the smaller side with a queen size bed and the trade mark Ibis ‘pod’ bathroom, but it’s very comfortable, convenient and reliable - even the pod is a bit of fun with a good shower perfect after a long day of sight-seeing. A more basic offering, there are tea and coffee facilities and Freeview TV, but no mini bar or room service, which helps keep the price down, as does the lack of a gym. The staff are so helpful and friendly, adding to the overall experience at Ibis London City which makes you feel happy to return. Located in the heart of the City of London, you’re super close to a plethora of bars, restaurants and *good* coffee in Shoreditch plus Brick Lane, Liverpool Street and the Tower of London - a fabulous morning walk. With free wifi and a quietly buzzing atmosphere that is full of good energy, the lobby lounge area is great for working or a meeting. A delicious and diverse buffet breakfast served every morning is highly impressive and great for keeping you going for a good part of the day. For the three star economy rating, the Ibis City London was one of my favourite hotel stays in London.
Verdict: Wallet friendly, people friendly and comfortable - in a great part of town!
Mercure London Bridge
4 star - from £118/night (~$240)
The Mercure London Bridge south of the Thames offers contemporary accommodation in a quieter part of town, yet still within excellent proximity to popular tourist attractions and a tube ride away from where you need to be. Stay within a walk or short taxi to tourist attractions such as the Tower Bridge, Tate Modern, Borough Markets, London Bridge and the many bars and restaurants in the area and along South Bank. The hotel is pure understated cool with contemporary interiors, very stylish meeting and lounge spaces and a gorgeous country style restaurant. After arriving late, I settled into my ginormous room and its plush interiors only to find that the bed was missing the layer that normally sits atop the two singles pushed together. Obviously an oversight, in no time at all reception had organised another room for me to move to and I was settled once more in 20 minutes. The other room was not quite as large but it was quieter and felt more comfortable being a tad smaller - of course with the same gorgeous plush interiors and a very modish bathroom with a rain shower. Breakfast at The Loft restaurant is cruelly tempting with a hot buffet breakfast that includes black pudding, plus all the regular and slightly healthier continental options, in a space with lots of natural light. The lobby area and free wifi provided a perfect virtual office for a day of working in one of their lounge-room themed spaces. I particularly love the furniture at Mercure London Bridge.
The verdict: Stylish accommodation in a quieter area that’s still close to everything
4 star AirBNB rating - from £160 a night (~$306) for 2 bedrooms/3 beds
This was my first encounter with an AirBNB stay. It’s certainly no hotel experience, but I had a friend joining me for a few nights and it was a cost effective option for two bedroom accommodation with more space. Staying in Soho, everything is (literally) on your door step and the energy is electric. Bustling streets and pavements not to mention a night club right next door - which, unfortunately, started at 11pm and finished at around 3am most nights. Thankfully ear plugs were on hand for my last three nights in London and while it was a lot of fun to share an authentic London flat with a friend, I missed the peace, comfort and security of a hotel. It did help slowly bring me back to reality prior to returning to “normal life” while also making me feel glad to get home to my own apartment and away from a bed that lay on a slope.
There’s such a vast difference between staying AirBNB vs a hotel and pros and cons to each; it’s more real, more of a city experience, and makes you more independent - but it can be less comfortable, less reliable, with less opportunity to get things fixed if something’s not quite right. For the price and with a tight budget, I’d rather return to the Ibis London City, but the draw card is the Soho and Piccadilly location. It all comes down to where you’d prefer to stay.
The verdict: Noisy but incredible location and best for value for money for a group
London is such a babe and it was amazing to be reunited with my long lost love of a city. If you’re headed there soon and in need of some independent accommodation ideas or would love to hear about where to eat, drink and be merry, get in touch! If you're a high tea fan, read about the offering at the Sofitel St James. Curious about whether Premium Economy is really worth it? Here's my independent post on the PE with Qantas.
Pssst - just a mention that I received some media rate and some complimentary accommodation during my trip, while also making good use of the Accor Happy Mondays for great deals available to everyone. Massive thank you to Accor Hotels for helping me share where to stay with my fellow wanderlust readers.